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A tribute to the man who was the master of the galaxies

I would like to formally thank the late Stephen Hawking for liberating me from my mental turmoil and stumbling blocks by offering me something very much needed: a second chance.

How I dread now remembering those years in middle school, that painful phase of my life filled with anxiety. A restlessness that might have been triggered by millions of antsy hormones flowing in my veins, or I was simply being a brat. Regardless what might have been the reason of my discontent, the fact was that I approached my everyday math or physics assignments with total disconnect. And while other students performed their daily work with ease, commitment and even with witty playfulness, I looked at the my test sheets with horror and dread.

In recent years, a student who is experiencing learning disabilities is normally treated with care and sympathy. With the help of teachers, the principal and school psychologist, a decision is made on how to best address the student’s distress and adopt a proper methodology to rebuild his or her confidence.

But 50 years or so ago, a child with a learning disability was simply labeled as “lazy” or “brainless.”  And those degrading labels further humiliated and solidified the stigma that remained to be an integral part of the child’s psyche into adulthood. Many times I felt hopeless.

I was able to make a successful life for myself by adopting and learning other skills. Still, that image of the humiliated and mournful child in me, unable to complete the task at hand, followed me throughout my entire life.

Then I discovered Stephen Hawking, a giant in the field of astro-physiology and a brilliant mathematician who traveled around painfully bound to a wheelchair unable even to turn his neck. A man who was forced to communicate with the world with the help of a digitally empowered synthesizer. 

Yet, this was the same man whose own physical limitations never stopped him from traveling to the beginnings of time and exploring the foundation of universe. This was the man who seemed to be speaking directly to me when he said, “I am just a child who has never grown up. I still keep asking these ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions. And occasionally, I might find an answer.” 

Suddenly I realized that I don’t have to be a genius in math, physics or geometry to raise my eyes to the sky and watch the stars. I realized that even with my lack of understanding of simple mathematical equations, I can still embrace the enormity, beauty and the mystery of the universe.

According to Hawking, all I needed was simply a desire and passion, a passion to look up and explore the sky. And he was right. Even with my naked eyes, I can see Mercury, Venus and Mars and millions of stars of our own Milky Way galaxy. I know that the universe is expanding and has no borders, and new galaxies are being born and are dying constantly. I know what gravitational force is. And what a bang is. I have some idea how the universe was created. And yes, black holes suck up planets, stars, dust, even light, with a force that can be measured by a radiation that black holes emit. I even have some idea about how we humans were created, and where we might be heading to. And all this knowledge comes from a kid who failed in his math test.

Thanks to Stephen Hawking, who proved my teachers wrong. I was not just a lazy, dumb and useless kid. All I needed was muse and spark. And that’s exactly what Hawking instilled in me. Unlike my teachers’ rebukes, Hawking offered a different sense of learning. He was kind, inspirational and encouraging. I will cherish his memory forever.

Thank you, Stephen Hawking. Thank you, Maestro!

 

Varoujan Froundjian is a graphic designer, Photoshop artist, writer, cartoonist, information technology and wine expert who also drives a limousine for local livery. He can be reached at varoujanfroundjian@gmail.com.